Friday, September 9, 2011

Now THAT'S Saturn!

Check out this awesome picture of Saturn taken by NASA's Cassini space probe. That's not CGI, it's what the planet Saturn really looks like from that particular angle, with the sun behind it illuminating the surrounding rings.

Taken by NASA's Cassini robotic orbiter, the shot was captured from the dark side of Saturn as the Sun's bright rays illuminated every piece of dust and debris circling the planet. Cassini has offered astronomers a never-before-seen look at Saturn and revealed more information about the planet than any craft before it. The craft has taken so many pictures of the ringed wonder that they were recently made into a short flyby film that looks like it was created by George Lucas rather than a robotic space explorer.

In Qabalistic magick Saturn is related to Binah, which encompasses both the vision of wonder and the vision of sorrow. It's considered both an astrological malefic and the lord of initiation. And in this picture you can see all that, and so much more. This is going to become my magical image of choice for years to come.

The Cassini probe was launched in 1997 and took a further 7 years to reach Saturn's orbit. The total cost of its overarching objective of studying the ringed planet stands at a staggering $3.26 billion. However, the wealth of information it has wrought — including amazing pictures like the one above, and recordings of massive lightning storms on the planet — have already made it one of the best investments in space exploration. Hopefully Juno — which began a 5-year trek to Jupiter just last month — will bring us some equally stunning shots of Saturn's neighbor.

Let's just say that I'm really looking forward to seeing those photos of Jupiter, as they promise to be similarly remarkable.

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Anonymous said...

To be an astronomy nerd/jerk that's actually not what Saturn looks like from that angle. It's an "exaggerated colour image" which means (by NASA's own definition) "Color in the view was created by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared and clear filter images and was then adjusted to resemble natural color." So a lot of that image actually exists outside the physical capacity of humans to see. I still love the picture and love most of the Cassini shots but most of the press on the picture being what we'd see is wrong.

Scott Stenwick said...

Thanks for the info. From the article it sounded like they were saying it was a regular non-enhanced image.

Still, it's pretty awesome that it looks like it should be CGI but is in fact better than just about everything I've seen the FX folks put on film in real life.

Anonymous said...

It's one of those cases where I wish I could track back to see where the claim started. NASA's photojournal site explains it's a composite (it's 27 small pictures put together) and exaggerated colour image, but almost all news stories say it's non-enhanced and what we'd see.

Totally agree it's still awesome and beautiful. As for the CGI comment all I can think of is Feynman's comment "Nature's imagination is so much bigger than man's." We've barely scratched the surface of the local solar region and there is so much beauty and weirdness, it's brilliant and humbling.

Scott Stenwick said...

Track the (Source) link back from Yahoo and the text accompanying the picture says it's an exaggerated color image. Then the article ignores that entirely, so I'd say the omission is Yahoo's mistake. Either other articles are citing this one as a source or more than one outlet has made the same mistake reporting on it.

Anyway, it's super-cool, media cluelessness notwithstanding.